We have a lot of large and expensive Pilates equipment in our studio and yet one of my favourite things is something that’s cheap, small and portable. The long foam roller. I have always had such a love affair with this little guy and for good reason! Chances are you already have one at home. I’m going to tell you all about the benefits you can achieve, some things to steer clear from and a workout that can get your love affair with your roller underway.
The benefits of foam rolling:
Essentially foam rolling is a type of self-myofascial release or self-massage. My FAVOURITE way to use a long foam roller though is for exercising on. It provides an unstable surface to increase the challenge for your core, balance and strength while still supporting the spine in neutral (perfect for those with bad backs!).
Benefits of foam rolling for massage include:
– Increase blood flow for release and repair
– Increase flexibility
– Break down adhesions and scar tissue around muscles and connective tissue
– Increase your range of movement
– Decrease your risk of injury
Go slow: Take your time and listen to your body. Try using slow, smooth and sweeping movements of your body on the roller. Areas that are great to roll include but not limited to upper back, lats, glutes, IT band, hamstrings, calves, quads and hips.
Use it for core work: I absolutely love using the roller for exercising. It allows you to do some strong core and stability work with minimal effort and little to no back/neck strain with some exercises. If you need some ideas on how to do this, I’ve included a link to one of my free roller workouts below.
Watch your posture: When massaging with the roller it can require some strenuous positions of your body e.g planking on your hands/elbows and side planking on one arm. It’s important that you watch your alignment while doing these positions as repeated bad posture can cause injury in itself.
Take it easy: If something feels really tender – listen to your body! You can offload in some positions to ease into the release e.g placing your opposite leg down when rolling out your IT band to offload some of your body weight.
Don’t roll every day: While foam rolling is relatively cheap and easy, it’s power is not to be underestimated. It can be VERY uncomfortable over tight and tender areas as well as areas that may have scar tissue. For this reason, I recommend people only foam roll a few times per week, particularly as you are getting used to it. This allows for some rest days in between for your body to recoup and repair.
Don’t roll directly over your lumbar spine: I see people make this mistake ALL THE TIME and it makes me cringe! The roller can be quite harsh on your spine and there’s not much to protect it between you and the roller for your lower back. Your muscles will contract to protect the spine. A more effective way to release your lower back is to roll over your glutes, hamstrings and hip flexors.
Don’t aim at the pain directly: The painful areas are likely a result of an imbalance close by. If you’ve got a really painful spot, trying working indirectly with the muscles surrounding it, not directly over it! Rolling directly over the painful spot can increase the inflammation and that is not at all helpful to your cause.
If you’ve got a foam roller at home and need some guidance and inspiration for some new exercises, check out my Level 2 Roller Workout for FREE on Youtube here.
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Happy rolling everyone!